When it comes to turf racing, there is no better place than the New York racing circuit, and that will certainly be on display this Saturday in the Grade 1, $1,000,000 Sword Dancer Stakes. The race is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” event, and the winner of this race will have certainly earned his spot. A competitive field of 10 horses are set to contend for this major race, including the Grade 1 Manhattan Stakes winner Spring Quality, who defeated several quality horses, including Robert Bruce and Fashion Business. Those two have already come back to win Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” races at Arlington Park and Del Mar. Spring Quality scratched out of the Grade 1 Arlington Million to run in this spot.
“One of the reasons I went to the Million was because it was a mile and a quarter, which was the same distance he’d won at, but I don’t think the mile and a half should be an issue for me. He’s a horse that acts like he’ll handle it,” said Motion, who won the Sword Dancer with Better Talk Now (2004) and champion Main Sequence (2014). “I never really thought that it would be a problem. He’s gone a mile and three-eighths. I’m very comfortable with how he’s done since he’s been in Saratoga. He hasn’t really missed a beat.”
The winner of the Sword Dancer will receive an automatic position in the Breeders’ Cup Longines Turf this fall at Churchill Downs. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the person who nominated the foal or racehorse. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of Kentucky will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based internationally.
The Grade 1 Sword Dancer Stakes will be one of many huge races at Saratoga this Saturday. The card features seven graded stakes events in total on the day. Along with the Sword Dancer Stakes, there are three other Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” events: The Grade 1 Forego (Dirt Mile), The Grade 1 Personal Ensign (Longines Distaff), and the Grade 1 Ballerina (Filly and Mare Sprint). Also on the card is the Grade 1 Travers Stakes, which will likely have a direct impact on the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events continue next Saturday at Saratoga with the prestigious Grade 1 Spinaway Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. The race serves as a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” for the Juvenile Fillies Stakes.
The racing from Saratoga can be found live on two different national television networks throughout the day. The live on-site coverage starts on Fox Sports 2 with Saratoga Live from 1:00 – 4:00 PM ET before continuing on NBC from 4:00 – 6:00 PM ET.
The full field from the rail out includes: Glorious Empire, Spring Quality, Funtastic, Hi Happy, Highland Sky, Bigger Picture, Channel Maker, Seahenge, Revved Up, and Sadler’s Joy.
#10 Sadler’s Joy – This 5-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy is the class of this field and won this race a year ago by a 1/2-length over Money Multiplier. That win led to a fourth-place finish in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf to round out his season. He has only one victory in 2018 but has hit the board in three straight tough races. The defending champion will have a big shot to repeat.
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#3 Funtastic – Trainer Chad Brown has this horse running fantastic with back-to-back wire-to-wire wins coming into this race. Two back, he defeated allowance company at Belmont Park before shipping to Monmouth Park and winning the Grade 1 United Nations Stakes. He will be looking for his second straight Grade 1 win in this race.
#2 Spring Quality – Trainer Graham Motion always garners respect in these types of races, especially with a horse that has won 2 of his last 3 starts. His most recent was definitely the biggest of his career in the Manhattan, which he took by a neck at odds of 18-1. Several horses that ran in the Manhattan have already come back to win, including Robert Bruce in the Grade 1 Arlington Millionand Fashion Business in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap. Spring Quality scratched out of the Arlington Million in order to run in this spot.
#4 Hi Happy – This horse was having a tremendous year before a non-effort last time out in the Bowling Green over this track. Before that, he had won 2 of 4 this year while hitting the board in every start, and three starts back, he picked up his first Grade 1 victory in the Man O’ War Stakeswhile following that up with a solid third-place effort in the Manhattan. Perhaps the soft turf in the Bowling Green bothered him, so if he can get back to his best race, then he could certainly win here.
#7 Channel Maker – Last time was certainly exciting as Channel Maker and Glorious Empire hit the wire together for a dead heat in the Bowling Green. Channel Maker closed furiously on the front-running Glorious Empire there and can do the same here if the early pace sets up well for him. His strategy is always the same: drop to the back of the pack and make one giant run at the end.
#6 Bigger Picture – He always puts up consistent efforts, especially at Saratoga, where he was third in this race a year ago. He opened 2018 with a win in a Grade 3 race at Sam Houston, and two races ago, he was third in the United Nations. He will drop to the back of the pack and make one big run at the end, so a hot pace would be to his favor.
#5 Highland Sky – The son of Sky Mesa has been a familiar face in this division for years and is set to give it another go in this tough spot. He nearly won the 2016 Grade 1 Belmont Derbyand was defeated by just a neck, so he has some back class. Two races ago, he defeated allowance company at Belmont Park, and last time out, he was fifth in the Bowling Green. That race was contested over a soft turf course, so like Hi Happy, perhaps he did not care for the surface.
#1 Glorious Empire – This horse is red-hot with two straight victories, including the Grade 2 Bowling Green Stakeslast time out over this track at odds of 22-1. Rain has played a major factor at Saratoga this year, including in that last race, where the turf was very soft. Right now, the forecast calls for sunny skies, but if it rains, we know that this horse won’t mind the give in the ground.
#9 Revved Up – He is no stranger to big races, and last time out, he was a solid second in the Grade 3 Arlington Handicapbehind Divisidero. That horse came back to run a decent third here two weeks ago in the Grade 1 Fourstardave Stakes.
#8 Seahenge – He ships to the United States for the third straight time after failed attempts in his previous two efforts. It has been a long time since this horse has seen the winner’s circle, and this spot looks to be very difficult for him once again.